Time has shown that flooding is one of the most common and costly disasters that can happen anywhere and at any time. During the hurricane season, flooding is a real and scary danger that can kill people and animals and cause millions of dollars in damage to infrastructure. As a property owner, you should seek to minimise the risk of flooding. A basic monthly home maintenance exercise can identify problems and allow for time to rectify before they are too destructive. Many of the suggestions below are relatively simple and inexpensive and can be implemented seamlessly to safeguard your home.
Maintain Your Landscape
Sometimes our surroundings can impact how water flows in a natural disaster. Drains that are covered in grass, leaves and garbage will make flooding worse, because the outlet that carries the water away is blocked. Property owners should maintain surrounding landscapes and undertake a periodic, yet frequent inspection and maintenance of their properties.
Gutters, downspouts and splash pads should be cleaned so that rainwater is directed away from the home. Drains, ditches and storm drains should be cleared of all debris especially if you live in an area with lots of leafy trees, shrubs and grass. If you can, change how your lot is graded so that rainwater drains away from the building. And, if possible install a water storage barrel to catch water from the gutter downspouts.
Check Your Foundation
Maintaining the integrity of the foundation of the home is one of the most important considerations that a homeowner should have. During your home maintenance inspections, you should always check for foundation cracks. If cracks are found, close them with mortar, cement or masonry caulk. All cracks should be filled completely to prevent additional issues.
Where possible, seal all walls in your basement with waterproofing sealants to prevent seepage. If your area floods, water can seep into the foundation and cause the cracks to widen. According to Eden Structural, this can also cause the walls to separate from the foundation and weaken your home’s structural integrity. In addition, damage may be caused to walls and floors and life threatening mold may form in damp areas. Proper drainage, sump pumps and frequent inspections can protect your foundation from expensive flood damage.
Buy Flood Insurance
Many homeowners do not know that flooding is not covered in standard home insurance policies. Flooding is covered in separate flood insurance programmes and without it, you will have to pay for expensive flood damage out of your pocket or acquire a loan. Flood Smart explains that mere inches of water in your home can cause thousands of dollars in damage and advocates signing up for a flood insurance policy.
If you are on the fence about flood insurance, you are not alone. However, please bear in mind that flood hazards can impact areas that are outside of high-risk flood zones. Even if your home has never been impacted by a flood, infrastructure improvements, home construction, fluctuating weather and climate change can alter flood maps and flood zones.
Install Flood Protection Barriers
There are many flood protection barriers which can be used to prevent properties from expensive flood damage. These barriers, which are flood mitigating measures, can be classified as either permanent flood protection barriers or temporary flood protection barriers. FEMA explains that permanent flood protection barriers include levees and flood walls which are “engineered structures usually built of concrete, masonry, or a combination of both.” These structures are generally more expensive, but they effectively prevent floodwaters from reaching structures in the protected areas.
Temporary barriers “can be removed, stored, and reused in subsequent flood events” and “are designed so they can be used numerous times.” The type of barriers used for flood protection is, in most cases, dependent on the soil conditions. If the soil has a “low bearing capacity”, temporary barriers should be used. This is because permanent barriers may sink from their weight and consequently fail.
Install a Sump Pump
Sump pumps are used to keep reduce the risk of flood damage to your property. They can channel groundwater away from your home by pumping water from your basement. The water is then discharged to an area outside such as a well or drain. According to Fresh Water Systems, the there are several types of sump pumps – submersible, pedestal, battery operated and water powered.
Sump pumps require regular maintenance and should be serviced every six months. For a quick check, you can look to see that the pump is always sitting upright; make sure that it is plugged in ad that the cord is in good condition; test the pump periodically by pouring water into the catchment area; and if there is debris like dirt or sand in the pump, unplug and disconnect and remove the debris. The ideal sump pump should have a battery back up so that it can still be used if there is an electricity outage.
Elevate Indoor Appliances and Outdoor Equipment
One of the key determining factors of how expensive flood damage can be, is the loss of appliances and equipment. FEMA and Bank Rate both recommend protecting these items by raising them. Major indoor appliances like washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, and hot water heaters, should be moved above the ground floor. In one story homes, these items should be elevated at least one foot off the ground or at least one foot above base flood elevations (BFE).
Outdoor equipment, such as air conditioners, central air and other HVAC systems, fuel tanks, and generators, should be anchored and also raised on platforms that are at least one foot above the BFE. Relocation of outdoor equipment should also maintain recommended clearances as stipulated by building codes, insurance codes and manufacturers’ instructions. Other equipment that is owned by utility companies should not be moved unless permission is received in writing.
How to Deal With Expensive Flood Damage
Even though the suggestions listed above are excellent ways to protect your home from flooding, there will always be some risk and you cannot completely eliminate the onset of a flooding disaster. If you have been affected by extreme flooding, you have to determine if you can deal with the damage on your own. Remember – do not attempt to rectify any damage until you are sure that the flooding threat has been eliminated. Always consult with your insurance company before undertaking any work on your own.
Ideally, you should obtain the services of licensed plumbers and electricians before starting any work. These professionals will turn off all water and electrical sources before you enter the flooded area. Quicken Loans suggests that for a thorough clean up, the water should be pumped or drained off; fans should be used to dry out the area and prevent mold from growing; all areas and items that came into contact with the flood water should be disinfected; and items that can be salvaged should be sorted from those that will be discarded. If the damage is too much for you to handle, you should consider calling in an expert.